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Seeking Hillary's Favor: Dyson Attacks Cornel West

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"Dyson has resorted to icon assassination because West's highly visible critique of Obama's domestic and foreign policy is an embarrassment to the administration."

As the clock unwinds on the nation's first Black presidency, much of the Black political class is scrambling to rewrite the history of their own behavior over the past six or seven years. Suddenly, all of them claim to have been "constructive critics" of the Obama administration, despite the absence of any public record of such criticism when it might have made a difference. In 21 months, the First Black President will leave office having overseen a federal retrenchment more brutal than under Ronald Reagan, a "bipartisan" austerity regime forged in 2010 as Obama pursued his long-sought "Grand Bargain" with the GOP.

Before even taking office, back in early January, 2009, Obama had loudly proclaimed his intentions to plunge directly into austerity mode, once the banks had been rescued from insolvency, by putting all entitlement programs "on the table" for chopping, including Social Security. He spent his first two years in office, when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress, creating a model for austerity through his hand-picked Deficit Reduction Commission, which recommended $4 trillion in cuts -- virtually the same as demanded by the Republicans. When the GOP won control of the House in 2010, Obama bragged that he had already reduced domestic discretionary spending to "its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was president. That level of spending is lower than it was under the last three administrations, and it will be lower than it was under Ronald Reagan."

In 2011, Obama outdid George W. Bush in unilateral war making, claiming the War Powers Act did not apply to the US/NATO bombing campaign against Libya because no Americans were killed and, therefore, no war -- or even "hostilities" -- had existed. A new era of proliferating "humanitarian" and proxy wars was inaugurated under the man who ran as a peace candidate in 2008.

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"Dyson thinks this is an auspicious time to unleash a bloated, mean-spirited and politically flatulent assault on a Black public intellectual who risked his 'icon' status by breaking with Obama early in the president's first term."

Black America has plummeted to such economic depths under Obama's watch that there is no possibility of ever reaching economic parity with whites absent a social revolution, the beginnings of which we may be witnessing in the growing mobilization against brutal police enforcement of the oppressive social order.

It is no wonder that so many members of the Black political class, especially those that style themselves as "progressives," are now anxious to revise their Obama-era political histories to put a false distance between themselves and the outgoing administration. Which is why I found it curious that Georgetown University professor and preacher Michael Eric Dyson thinks this is an auspicious time to unleash a bloated, mean-spirited and politically flatulent assault on Dr. Cornel West, a Black public intellectual who risked his "icon" status by breaking with Obama early in the president's first term, when the center-right nature of his corporation-serving administration became manifest.

Dyson is clearly haunted by "The Ghost of Cornel West," as The New Republic article is titled. In Georgia, the older country folks used to say that when a "haint" (a ghost) got on top of you in your sleep, you became temporarily paralyzed -- a condition sometimes called "being rode by a witch." Dyson's obsession with West seems to have paralyzed those parts of his brain that process political facts and issues. In almost 10,000 words, Dyson makes no reference to any substantive political issues that divide he and West, and offers only the slimmest assessment of Obama's stance on the burning issues of the day. Given such a dirth of actual political analysis of either the Obama presidency or Cornel West's critique of that presidency, the article is a soaring testament to Dyson's enormous capacity for bloviation.

But, of course, there is method to Dyson's meanness. The true purpose of his elongated smear of Dr. West is to demonstrate to Hillary Clinton's camp that Dyson remains a loyal Democratic Party operative who is available for service to the new regime. Having observed how hugely Al Sharpton prospered as President Obama's pit bull against Black dissent, Dyson offers unto Caesarius Hillarius ("We came, we saw, he died," as she said of Gaddafi) the iconic head of the nation's best known Black dissident.

"The article is a soaring testament to Dyson's enormous capacity for bloviation."

Dyson's article is as dishonest as it is long and draining. Dyson is not mad at West because the Union Theological Seminary professor has supposedly turned out a "paucity of serious and fresh intellectual work" over the last several years. He was not driven to write a hit piece because his former "friend" is "not quite up to the high scholarly standard West set for himself long ago." Dyson has resorted to icon assassination because West's highly visible critique of Obama's domestic and foreign policy is an embarrassment to the administration, to the Democratic Party as an institution, and to the sycophantic Black Misleadership Class that has been more loyal to Obama than to Black people as a group. Mostly, Dyson is mad because Dr. West called him out, personally. Dyson wrote:

"It was during an appearance with Tavis Smiley on Democracy Now, shortly after Obama's reelection. 'I love Brother Mike Dyson,' West said. 'But we're living in a society where everybody is up for sale. Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother Sharpton and Sister Melissa and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kinds of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it's a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way, given the kind of critical background that all of them have had at some point.'"

Dyson attempts to draw the reader into a discussion of the definition of a "prophet," and who is, or is not, one. But that's just a long-winded way of asserting that West has no right to criticize Dyson, Harris, Sharpton and the other Black-notables-for-hire. Dyson attempts to turn the "access" tables on West, noting that West was known to hang with celebrities like Warren Beatty, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Johnny Cochran, Snoop Dogg and Mexican beauty Salma Hayek. As if Warren Beatty has ever maintained a "Kill List," Sean Combs has plans to bomb Africa, and Snoop Dogg is actively engaged in turning the U.S. government over to Wall Street.

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"Dyson not only sells himself, he tries to defame Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a sell-out, access-monger, too."

Dyson claims West lives by a double standard. Attempting sarcasm, Dyson writes: "West offers himself a benefit that he refuses to extend to others: He can go to the White House without becoming a presidential apologist or losing his prophetic cool. He can spend an evening with the president, the first of many such evenings, without selling his soul."

Well, apparently, West can. And, just as clearly, after 19 or more visits to the White House, Dyson cannot. He not only sells himself, he tries to defame Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a sell-out, access-monger, too. Without shame, honor, or a logical leg to stand on, Dyson writes:

"King was arguably more beneficial to the folk he loved when he swayed power with his influence and vision. When West begrudges Sharpton his closeness to Obama, he ignores the fact that King had similar access." Dyson continues, "Sharpton and Jackson moved in the opposite prophetic direction of King. While King kissed the periphery with courageous vigor after enjoying his role as a central prophet, Jackson, and especially Sharpton, started on the periphery before coming into their own on the inside. Jackson's transition was smoothed by the gulf left by King's assassination, and while forging alliances with other outsiders on the black left, he easily adapted to the role of the inside-outsider who identified with the downcast while making his way to the heart of the Democratic Party."

Dr. King and other members of the so-called "Big Six" organizations enjoyed some access to Lyndon Johnson's White House because of the power of the movements they led. Dr. King did not become influential because he got invitations to the White House; he got invited to the White House because he was influential among millions of Black people. MLK made the principled, and possibly fatal, decision to break with Lyndon Johnson's White House on April 4, 1967, with his "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence" speech. He effectively severed ties with an administration that had, at times, been an ally in the civil rights struggle. Singling out the U.S. as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, today," Dr. King said:

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Glen Ford is aveteran of Black radio, television, print and Internet news and commentary. He is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com and was co-founder of BlackCommentator.com.


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